As the United States and Cuba continue the diplomatic thawing process undertaken by the Obama Administration, thousands of migrants are expected to cross into El Paso amid fears that the preferential status for the island-born immigrants could soon cease.
The Catholic Church-affiliated Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services based in El Paso announced its intentions to aid roughly 3,500 migrants from the Communist island nation beginning this week, according to the Associated Press. The immigration services charity expects two plane loads carrying 150 Cubans per day will travel from Panama to Juarez, Mexico for eventual crossing into western Texas. An estimated 300 have already arrived in the first three days of the program.
Arriving migrants to the U.S. can expect temporary housing for up to four people per unit, provided by local churches plus access assistance with the Refugee Cash Assistance Program. The Refugee Resettlement Program coordinated by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission offers welfare benefits to those residing in the United States for five years or less — Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Medicaid benefits are made immediately available.
Representatives for Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services told the AP that only 20 percent of the Cubans will remain in the El Paso area due to limited economic or relocation opportunities waiting for them. Popular destinations for those participants in the program are Colorado, Florida and Michigan.
As Breitbart Texas previously reported, a major draw for Cuban migrants to Texas now stems from fears that the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 could be suspended in the near future. The Cold War era statute allows Cubans arriving on American soil to fast-track the naturalization process after one year of residency, yet makes select welfare benefits immediately available. As relations between the two nations continue to thaw, some new arrivals fear the arrangement could come to a close.
The February Breitbart Texas report also noted where scores of migrants held in holding patterns in Central America for extended periods of time have resorted to illegal means to get to the U.S. border. A variety of Cubans claimed to pay hundreds of dollars each to access human smuggling networks ran by major cartels where they risk threats of kidnapping or worse.
A surge of Cubans, estimated to be more than 40,000 made their way from Cuba to Central America and then northward to Mexico, Breitbart Texas also reported in February. They began crossing in large numbers in the Rio Grande Valley Sector. A later report revealed plane loads of Cubans arriving in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, to cross the border into Laredo, Texas.
The thawing of American/Cuban relations officially began in December 2014 when Presidents Obama and Castro announced a new approach to bilateral relations. The American Embassy in Havana opened in July 2015. The Cuban government began demanding reparations and a return of Guantanamo Bay later in the year, according to a Breitbart News report.
The Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services take advantage of a variety of funding sources, to include the federal government and the Houston-based Scanlon Foundation. The organization’s federal funding is calculated based on three-year averages of the total number of Cubans served. Double-digit percentage increases have been reported in the past three years alone.
The nonprofit claims to “advance justice and protect the rights of those we serve in the spirit of gospel values.”
Logan Churchwell is a founding member of the Breitbart Texas team. You can follow him on Twitter @LCChurchwell.